The Reputation Paradox of Hiring Ex-Criminals

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If everyone deserves a second chance, if everyone makes mistakes, if the workplace is becoming more inclusive, if skilled workforce is not that easy to find, should businesses turn their attention towards those with a criminal record?

Some of you would say yes, others would say no. But it’s not that simple, nor a ‘black or white’ decision.

As Alexander McLean, the African Prisons Project founder, said in his Edge (2019, Spring ed.) interview, we should ‘be quicker to love and slower to judge’ because we should ‘slow down and look beyond someone’s circumstances, education and employment history to consider what they might bring to the table.’

In an article recently published by Director (2019), the statistics are astounding: one sixth of the UK population has a criminal record, 75% of employers surveyed said that they would not hire an ex-offender, reoffending costs the UK approximately £15 billion per year and only 17% of offenders manage to secure a job within their first year of release!

Alex Head, the CEO of Social Pantry, told Edge that she has been employing ex-offenders for over three years and that ‘ex-offenders can be passionate, dedicated and hard-working employees’ and that they ‘represent a talented workforce of individuals that too many businesses are not yet tapping into.’

CJ Burge | TEDxLeicesterSalon

There are other business owners who echo Ms Head’s views on hiring ex-offenders, with Director revealing an incredible fact: ‘92% of inclusive employers say that their willingness to recruit ex-offenders has enhanced their reputation, often helping them to win contracts’. And that, we could argue, is the gist of the business case for hiring ex-offenders.

But there are some darker issues to contend with, too: according to the UK’s Ministry of Justice, as cited by Director, ‘ex-offenders who find a job on release are up to 9% less likely to reoffend’. I don’t know about you but, ‘9%’ and ‘likely’ are rather bleak stats …

If someone were given a second chance to turn their lives around and make a fresh start, we could argue that they would grab that opportunity with both hands and do anything possible not to lose that chance ….

If we think that out of 100 offenders who find employment on release only 9 of those are less likely to reoffend, what are the risks a very high rate of reoffending poses to businesses’ operations and reputation?

From a business reputation perspective, what is the ‘criminal conviction’ line that you are willing not to cross? Is it theft? Is it dangerous driving? Is it rape? Is it manslaughter? Is it fraud? Is it a sexual offence? Or is it murder?

Chelsea Jensen, MBA PHR SHRM-CP – Human Resource Services Consultant

From a religious standpoint and for all three monotheistic religions – Christianity, Judaism and Islam – only God is sinless. We are all sinners and our forgiveness of others should be steadfast. But how ‘religious’ and ‘forgiveness’ inclined is the business world?

Should the complexity of criminal offences be assessed not just in terms of skills versus business needs but, also, in terms of skills versus business risks?

Social Pantry’s CEO makes a very good point in her Edge interview: ‘communication is key to resolving [reintegration] challenges’. And communication, corroborated with a right level of engagement across the entire stakeholder spectrum, may be the silver bullet of ensuring a safe and sustainable workplace for both ex-offenders as well as for the organisation.

What are, in your view, the corporate reputational risks and benefits in hiring ex-offenders?

Photo credit: Joseph Fulgham, Pixabay  

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